• Marylin Balsano

    Customizing Her Direction

    Portrait of Marilyn Balsano.
    Marylin Balsano
    Graphic Design Certificate, Web Design Certificate and User Experience Design Certificate Graduate

    Continuing education leads user experience designer to a meaningful specialty

    Marylin Balsano understands how lifelong learning can help lead to the right career path. As a graduate of multiple George Brown College continuing education certificates, Marylin found a new and inspiring career direction through three unique but related programs. Her experiences in our Graphic Design Certificate, Web Design Certificate and User Experience Design Certificate allowed her to ultimately discover her passion for creating engaging, user-friendly websites and web applications.

    Marylin began taking graphic design courses at George Brown in 2011 after earning a university degree in marketing, which allowed her to take on more responsibilities in her job as a marketing co-ordinator. Her growing interest in online platforms led her to web design, where she was first introduced to the concept of user experience (UX) design. It combined her favourite elements of marketing, graphic design and web design, and it encouraged her to pursue a role in this growing field as a new career goal. “I knew user experience was really the path I wanted to go down,” she says. “I loved the courses I was taking. Although it was a lot of time and hard work, I really enjoyed what I was doing.”

    Marylin’s persistence paid off. Now a UX and user interface (UI) designer at Interad Media Design Corp., the knowledge and skills she gained through her certificate courses get put to daily use. “UX involves designing a product – it could be a website or software or a mobile app – and our goal is to maximize user satisfaction by making a product user-friendly,” she explains. “George Brown taught the theory behind the different phases of UX design, and then put the theories into practice with practical projects. We got a good sense of what it was like in the real world.”

    She credits George Brown’s immersive and in-depth certificate programs for providing her with the knowledge she needed to succeed, and appreciated the industry experience her teachers brought to the classroom. “They are actually working in the field at the moment, so we were taught the theoretical, but we also heard about their experiences at work – often from the same day,” Marylin notes. The flexibility of her class schedules and George Brown’s convenient downtown location allowed her to maintain a good balance between her work and her courses.

    George Brown’s practical approach to learning also gave Marylin the opportunity to develop examples of her work that she could use in the real world. “The group assignments and projects were really good,” she remembers. “I was actually able to put a lot of the projects I did in my portfolio, which helped to build it. I now have projects in my portfolio from both my certificate work and my client work.”

    “George Brown taught the theory behind the different phases of UX design, and then put the theories into practice with practical projects. We got a good sense of what it was like in the real world.”

    Marylin loves her current job because it allows her to think big. Engaging in large-scale UX and UI design projects for major clients like RBC Royal Bank mean her efforts are benefitting hundreds of thousands of people. “It feels like my baby,” she says of each project.” You put so much work and effort into it that when you actually see it go live, it’s a really rewarding experience to see the impact it will have on so many users.”

    Marylin still appreciates smaller-scale projects, too. She also works with clients on a freelance basis, helping small businesses to build their brand and reach their market with her customer-centred designs.

    Whether the project is big or small, Marylin knows the user always comes first. “Before you jump into design, you have to research the needs of the users and align them with the business model and product,” she explains. “So when I design, it has a purpose. Even when I’m choosing a colour, it’s for a reason. I’m thinking about the users and how the users are going to feel.”